Directed by: Sergio Bergonzelli
Written by: Fabio De Agostini & Sergio Bergonzelli
Starring: Eleonora Rossi, Drago Anna, Maria Pierangeli & Fernando Sancho
Reviewed by: Brett H.
Ö What has been remains imbedded in the brain, nestled in the folds of the flesh; distorted, it conditions and subconsciously impels. - Freud
The analysis of the villain in a horror film is a very intriguing examination. The genre has seen a wide array of barbaric butchers and they all play a very important role in how the viewer interacts with the experience. Perhaps the most rewarding films in the genre are those with complicated plot structure and delicate character craft flaring the liveliness of the movie and enveloping you in its artistry. Simplicity is virtuous as well, and an overanalysed character isnít always the best way to portray an idea (see Rob Zombieís Halloween). With murder-mysteries, the supernaturally driven villains tend to be best kept simple. Michael Myers is evil, thatís all that matters. The horror films I grew up on tended to reside on this much safer side of the fence. But, the Italians always were the artists and itís admirable to see some true thought and care seeping through the cracks of low budget undertakings. With Severinís latest gialli release, In the Folds of the Flesh, thereís definitely a nice experience to be had and since it is one of those early non-Plumage character/plot-driven gialli, you know things are going to be a bit different. With Severin, it always is. Thankfully.
Our journey begins with a quote from Freud regarding the effect a traumatic experience can impose on the subconscious and how these things can manifest themselves into the everyday actions of a human being. Directly following this quote is a flash of lightning followed by a visual of a decapitated man lying on the floor. All the while, a ruffian (Fernando Sancho) is being chased by the boys in blue and comes across a strange, black haired woman who crosses his path to start the engine of a motorboat and lets it drive to nowhere in particular. Right after, the man witnesses the woman planting something in her garden, and it's not watermelon seeds. The cops show up and nab him and they haul the repeat offender back off to the coop while the lady looks on and the police walk right by her. They leave without paying any attention to her, but the bloody hand she grips around the bars of her gate tells us all we need to know.
Years later, a man arrives at the same villa and we see the odd lady from before, sheís introduced as Lucille (Eleonora Drago) and the guy turns out to be a relative. Heís invited to stay, but it will be short lived. Reminiscing is important to this family, but so are their secrets. When the visitorís dog begins digginí up bones, the family that slays together, stays together. This poor son of a gun finds that out all too quick after sticking his own paws where they donít belong. It doesnít stop there, films involving families that display old skeletal remains in their homes and simply adore their pet vultures (that always get a good meal) never do. Amidst a psychedelic and artsy backdrop lies a wall of confusion, torment and psychological dysfunction just waiting to be explored through the Freudian Folds.
In the Folds of the Flesh is a groovy and feverish mind-twisting Eurotrash bash. Within the first fifteen seconds of the film, weíre treated to a Freud quote, the clash of lightning and the aftermath of the decapitation that proves to be the cryptogram that we will enjoy struggling to decipher until the credits roll. Much to my surprise, this psychological thriller continues its feverish pace all the way until the end, which features so many plot twists that you will never know whether youíre coming or going, but youíll love being along for the ride. At its heart, itís a psychological study of the battered subconscious and how for every action thereís a reaction. Memories and lies blur in a web of deceit that will only be completely explained at the very end. But, I never had the feeling that I wanted it to end; the film is superbly paced and has a ton of great faux-climaxes. Sadly, when it did finish, I wished it could have stopped a moment earlier because the last cop-out twist was the one that broke the arm. Luckily, it doesnít hinder the effect much at all.
The main attraction isnít the kills or the sleaze, of which there are decent amounts, but the trippy and humorous mindfuck that exists throughout. The characters are great and the film overall plays out like a wild (yet more implicit) stew of Color Me Blood Red, Donít Look in the Basement!, Perversion Story and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. None of the three main characters are mentally stable and they are all haunted by the same tragedy in the form of the opening decapitation. The events are melted differently into each of their minds and the effect it has on their psyches vary. Falesse (Maria Pierangeli) believes she killed the man in the opening and it haunts her, but she doesnít mind reliving the sexually-charged murder scene out over and over again when any new man sets foot in the house. Lucille is mostly there to look odd and ominous, while the lone male, Colin, is an artist extraordinaire. On the outside, he seems to be the "sanest" of the bunch; the one who is in it to get a cheap thrill from being the accomplice to acts of murder. All in the name of art.
There is a decapitation motif throughout and the role of art in the film reflects that of the audienceís perspective. Colin believes everything must have an intricate place (as displayed when his own life may be ending soon; he hurls himself onto piano keys which emits a low crash) and he is a firm believer in his life imitating his artistry. At one point he has a chance to off a trespasser with a shotgun but stops himself because it would be much too noisy and vulgar, he wants to be more subtle. While there are black and white WWII gas chamber flashbacks, incest, rape and cyanide soaks, the film doesnít ever appear to be going over the top for the sake of featuring wild scenarios. Everything that happens is relevant in the whacked out minds of our characters, even if some things are a bit inexplicable or outlandish. It is a giallo, after all, even if thereís no black-gloved murderer or mammal-inspired title.
The direction is well-done with scenery being used to the fullest and exterior shots of the villa resembling classic gothicism. The culture of the times is on full display as the inside shots are all blasting with color and flair. Luckily, Severin Films has plucked another diamond in the rough out of obscurity by unleashing In the Folds of the Flesh on DVD with a great looking 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. The print displays a few blemishes and in very rare cases for a brief moment shows damage, but the colors are vibrant and fleshtones accurate. The discís audio is in English language stereo and the dialogue is mostly clear with a very slight hiss in a couple scenes. The lone extra of the disc is the standard theatrical trailer and like Cannibal Terror, the DVD is housed in a white keepcase. Proof that Severin overlooks no details, the white case actually makes the cover art appear a lot sleeker than it would have been on one of the black variety. In the Folds of the Flesh is unconventional, stylish, witty and absorbing; a worthy addition to anyoneís Eurocult catalogue. Buy it!
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